The older we get, the more we tend to want to take it easy, which is pretty understandable after a lifetime of working hard. But as tempting as it may be, our bodies are far better off when we stay physically active. Research has long shown that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mental illness as we age.
Busting the myth…
There are a lot of myths surrounding age and exercise, often implying that it’s easier to do more damage to older bodies when put through anything too strenuous, but you could be surprised at just how much your body is capable of. Yes, our joints can weaken as we get older and yes, our muscle mass diminishes a little; even our metabolism starts to slow down… So, all the more reason to keep moving as much as possible!
Of course, if you do have any particular concerns about what you should or shouldn’t do then speak to your GP first who will advise you on what’s best for you.
How much should you exercise?
Current NHS guidelines suggest that all adults, no matter what our age, should try to be active daily – getting in a mix of aerobic and strength based exercise. If you’re generally fit and well, at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week should do the trick, or 75 minutes of something a little more vigorous. Add in another 2 days a week to build strength in all the major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
- Moderate exercise: increases your heart rate and makes you breathe a little harder, but you should still be able to hold a conversation. It includes activities such as a brisk walk or cycling.
- Vigorous exercise: quickly raises your heart beat and body temperature and causes breathing to become heavy – talking will be more of a challenge. It includes activities such as climbing stairs, playing tennis, jogging or running.
What kind of exercise is good for me?
Anything that fits into the above descriptions of moderate or vigorous intensity is worth considering and you’re more likely to do something you enjoy, whatever that may be. It doesn’t have to be sport either – Zumba and ballroom dancing are great ways to keep fit!
It’s also good to get outside as much as possible, so anything from jogging and cycling, to playing golf, tennis or cricket, will tick the boxes whilst giving you an extra dose of fresh air and vitamin D. If you enjoy socialising check out the local clubs in your area, and maybe even try something new. Doing things with others can make things less daunting and give more incentive to keep going.
If you’re new to exercise, or haven’t been active for some time, start off with gentler activities such as swimming and walking, to build strength and stamina more gradually. Practices such as yoga and pilates are excellent ways to strengthen and tone muscle, whilst also improving balance, flexibility and coordination and helping with the overall functioning of the body’s internal systems.
When it comes to strength-based stuff, anything involving weights will help to build your muscles, whether it’s using machines at the gym, supporting your own body weight with press-ups and squats – even lifting and carrying things whilst gardening will give you a workout.
Whatever you’re doing though – be mindful, pace yourself and listen to your body.
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